Model year: 2000
Vehicles affected: Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer and Mazda Navajo models fitted with 15-inch Firestone ATX, ATX II or Wilderness AT tires.
The upshot: A high incidence of tread separation on the tires led to an alarming number of rollover accidents. Evidence suggests that both Ford and Firestone knew of the situation before NHTSA ordered an investigation; differing recommendations on tire pressure may have aggravated the situation.
The fallout: The two companies blamed each other for the accidents, resulting in their 95-year business relationship coming to an acrimonious end; 13 million tires were replaced; an undetermined number of accidents, injuries and deaths.
Model years: 2004-10
Vehicles affected: Toyota Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Matrix, Highlander, Prius, Rav4, Tacoma and Tundra; Lexus ES 350, IS 250 and IS 350; Pontiac Vibe (manufactured by Toyota).
The upshot: Incidents of unintended acceleration that were initially blamed on driver error and then linked to two separate issues – improper floor mats and a possible sticky gas pedal mechanism.
The fallout: The second-largest vehicle recall in history (6.67 million); untold alleged incidents and lawsuits. Toyota paid $1.6-billion to settle a class-action lawsuit and is reportedly negotiating a near $1-billion fine to settle a four-year criminal investigation into whether it reported safety complaints to regulators properly. The company has consistently denied that a defect caused sudden-acceleration problems.
Model years: 1982-87
Vehicles affected: Audi 5000
The upshot: In 1986, "60 Minutes" episode used a rigged car to demonstrate reported incidents of sudden, unintended acceleration.
The fallout: Some 700 accidents and a reported six deaths, later linked to driver error; safety overrides added to automatic transmissions and pedal placement changed; serious damage to the Audi brand took over a decade to repair; lawsuits over lost resale values.
Model Years: 1971-1978
Vehicles affected: Ford Pinto and Mercury Bobcat The upshot: A poorly designed fuel tank was placed in front of the rear bumper, leading to incidents of fire during rear-end collisions. The issue was compounded by a frame that would bend on impact, leaving the doors inoperable and occupants trapped in the vehicle.
The fallout: A reported 27 deaths, but many more in question; a disputed story that Ford executives used cost-benefit analysis in deciding not to fix the design; the Pinto is acknowledged as one of the worst cars of all time.